Tokyo Motor Show looking thin on the ground as manufacturers pull out

May 25th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Tokyo Motor Show

Porsche and Maserati are the latest party poopers for the biennial Tokyo Motor Show, adding to BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo, Ford, GM, Chrysler and more. That’s 22 foreign brands that will be staying at home watching the telly as the world focuses its attention on the new releases of other manufacturers. Japan’s 14 domestic manufacturers will almost certainly have a strong presence, but who is left out of the foreign marques: Ferrari, Hyundai, Lotus and possibly Kia.

This will take the number of cars at the show down by around 50%.

Does bankruptcy for Chrysler mean death for Viper?

May 6th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Viper SRT10 fq

With Chrysler officially bankrupt things are now looking more dire than ever for the iconic Dodge Viper. Chrysler has been looking to sell the Viper line for a while and several potential buyers were reportedly being considered, but months down the line no deal has been announced. Now, Chrysler has announced it will be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy before restructuring in a new partnership with Fiat. But what’s to happen to the Viper?

According to recent reports from Detroit, Viper could face the axe, for real. Chrysler says it is still considering offers on the Viper line, but an early analysis of the company’s restructuring strategy suggests that the Viper is a financial liability for the company and will be dropped during the bankruptcy process. The Conner Avenue Assembly plant where 115 workers build the Viper is one of several earmarked for potential closure, along with many other Chrysler facilities. Fiat may not be too keen on keeping the Viper alive considering it’s a bad asset and Ferrari is a Fiat subsidiary.

It’s not only the Viper’s head on the chopping block with several trucks — including the Dodge Ram, Dakota and Jeep Wrangler facing the axe as Chrysler aims to streamline.

Chrysler bankrupt – Fiat merger going ahead

May 1st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Fiat logo

Chrysler is officially bankrupt but there is still hope for the flailing automaker. Chrysler’s bankruptcy process is being pushed forward quickly to eliminate the remaining obstacles between Chrysler’s and Fiat’s planned merger. American President Obama’s made a speech yesterday reflecting this path, confirming both that bankruptcy is the only way forward, and that his task force finds a joined Fiat-Chrysler alliance to be viable.

“Over the past month, seemingly insurmountable obstacles have been overcome,” the President said during his speech. “Chrysler and Fiat have formed a partnership that has a strong chance of success.”

The combination of Fiat’s alliance and a speedy bankruptcy means that sales won’t be interrupted. Warranty service will continue now with a guarantee by the U.S. government. The Treasury will also be lending Chrysler an additional $7.5 billion to help it negotiate the waters of bankruptcy.

Between $3-$3.5 billion will come in the form of ‘debtor-in-possesion’ (DIP) financing, and another $4.5 billion will come as ‘exit financing’ to enable Chrysler to continue operation post-bankruptcy. Fiat will only be able to take control of Chrysler after the $7.5-$8 billion in loans have been repaid.

The Fiat-Chrysler alliance could be worth more than $10 billion for the struggling Detroit company and could potentially save more than 5,000 North American manufacturing jobs.

“This partnership transforms Chrysler into a vibrant new company with a wealth of strategic advantages,” said Chrysler boss Bob Nardelli. “It enables us to better serve our customers and dealers with a broader and more competitive line-up of environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient high-quality vehicles. Benefits to the new company include access to exciting products that complement our current portfolio, technology cooperation and stronger global distribution.”

Fiat will initially hold a 20% ownership stake in Chrysler. Fiat will have the right to increase its ownership stake an additional 15% in three increments as it meets the following criteria: 5% for bringing a 40mpg vehicle platform to Chrysler to be domestically produced 5% for providing a fuel-efficient engine family to be made in the U.S. for use in Chrysler vehicles; and 5% for providing Chrysler access to its vast global distribution network to facilitate the export of Chrysler vehicles.

“To be sure, there will be many changes as we move forward to implement our plans,” said Nardelli. “But today, from many great parts, we begin to build a vibrant new company with less debt, a stronger balance sheet, richer product portfolio, supported by a well-positioned finance company.”

Fiat saves Chrysler with a strategic partnership

January 21st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler announced yesterday that the troubled automaker has entered into a global strategic alliance with Fiat SpA, giving both companies access to each others’ products and markets. Fiat will also lend a hand in developing a business plan to present to the US Treasury; bringing with it experience gained through the Italian auto giant’s own restructuring. Chrysler now gets access to a range of small, fuel-efficient cars that are nothing like what is currently offered in American showrooms. Fiat’s engineering will be shifted over to some Chrysler manufacturing sites, keeping the plants busy and offering both brands ample capacity for the parts they will need to build cars.

in return for coming to the rescue Fiat will get a 35 percent equity interest in Chrysler and a way for the Italian automaker to re-enter the American market by suppling Chrysler the small cars it’s badly lacking. The partnership will go the other way, as well, with Chrysler vehicles gaining access to other markets through Fiat’s distribution avenues. With this new alliance Chrysler has dramatically increased its chances of not just survival but also possible future prosperity.

Chrysler PT Cruiser faces extinction

January 16th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler PT cruiser fq

The once coveted Chrysler PT Cruiser is facing extinction this year, and according to Chrysler President Tom LaSorda, the automaker is looking to sell the equipment used to build the PT Cruiser in Mexico.

Speaking with Bloomberg, LaSorda stated that Chrysler would sell its PT manufacturing assets but it doesn’t have any interested parties at this time.

Sales of the PT dropped in the states by 49% last year, with only 50,910 vehicles leaving dealer lots. That’s down from the PT’s domestic peak when Chrysler was able to offload 144,717 models in 2001. The PT’s demise doesn’t come as a surprise, particularly considering that Chrysler’s owner, Cerberus Capital Management, has slashed six other models from the automaker’s lineup since it took control in August 2007. The PT’s timely death will mean that the Chrysler badge is only attached to three American models: the Town & Country minivan, Sebring and 300C.

Chrysler to shut down all production

December 19th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler shut down

It’s no secret that Chrysler is having to fight harder than its Detroit brothers for survival, and the American automaker is pulling out all the stops to keep the lights on even if that means closing the doors. Chrysler is shutting down all of its plants for one month, beginning December 19. In a short release to the media, Chrysler blamed the continued credit crunch as the main reason for the shutdown, and is trying to realign its vehicle stock with consumer demand. Dealers have notified Chrysler that they’ve got plenty of perspective buyers, but up to 25% of customers are currently unable to obtain financing. So Chrysler plant workers will have a really long Christmas break at 95% pay, which can’t be too bad.

Chrysler’s move is far from unprecedented, though, as GM announced on Monday that it would be cutting production by 250,000 units in the first quarter of 2009. GM has also delayed production of its Flint engine plant. Toyota has also delayed plans to open its unfinished Mississippi plant, and Mitsubishi is closing its Illinois plant for seven weeks.

Chrysler confirms new vehicles for 2010

October 8th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Charger RT 2009 fq

Chrysler has ended speculation about what new products it will be rolling out in 2010, CEO Bob Nardelli confirmed there will be redesigned full-size vehicles. These will come in the form of a new Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 as well as a new Jeep. While these vehicles will not be exceptionally fuel efficient, Nardelli did stress that fuel-saving models are on their way due to Chrysler’s recent partnership with Nissan. The new vehicle Chrysler is predicted to put into production is the Dodge Hornet concept that has been around for the last couple of years.

The redesigned Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger will be highly important launches. Styling is expected to be very different since Ralph Gilles has taken over as head of design. We will have to wait and see.

Chrysler surges ahead with electric vehicles

September 24th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Jeep EV phantom

Chrysler has announced plans to introduce three electric-drive vehicle prototypes, only one will be selected for production for the North American market in 2010 and European markets the following year. The three options include a Dodge performance sports car, a Jeep SUV and a Chrysler people mover based on the popular Voyager platform.  As a joint project between Chrysler and the U.S Department of Energy, 100 electric vehicles are to be on the road in government, business, utility and Chrysler development fleets by 2009.

The Company said that it is well into the development of advanced, production-intent electric vehicles, and that it will apply electric-drive technology to its front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and body-on-frame four-wheel-drive platforms in the next several years.

“We have a social responsibility to our consumers to deliver environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient, advanced electric vehicles, and our intention is to meet that responsibility quickly and more broadly than any other automobile manufacturer,” said Bob Nardelli, Chairman and CEO — Chrysler.

Chrysler’s Electric Vehicles utilise just three primary components. These include an electric motor to drive the wheels, an advanced lithium-ion battery system to power the electric-drive motor and a controller that manages energy flow. The electric-drive system is being developed for front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, and body-on-frame four-wheel-drive vehicle applications. This technology provides customers with a vehicle that has zero tailpipe emissions and a 150- to 200-mile driving range.

The Range-extended Electric Vehicle technology combines the electric-drive components of the Electric Vehicle with a small petrol engine and integrated electric generator to produce additional energy to power the electric-drive system when needed.

In the Dodge EV sports car the 200 kW electric-drive motor generates 650 N¢m (480 lb.-ft.) of torque. The instant high torque of the electric-drive motor delivers outstanding performance, accelerating the Dodge EV to 60 mph in less than five seconds, with quarter-mile times of 13 seconds and a top speed of more than 120 mph.

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